It’s a tricky one, the Porsche Panamera. Despite the simple remit of being a big, prestige sports saloon, it falls into a sector that puts it in competition with everything from niche models such as the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and Mercedes CLS, right through to conventional luxury saloons such as the Jaguar XJ.
A recent face-lift has brought with it subtly smoothed-out styling, including a new front bumper, reshaped front and rear lights and a wider rear window for a less bulbous shape at the back.
The engine line-up has been more substantially revised. Cleaner across the board, the biggest change is to the Panamera S, which has shed its V8 in favour of a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 that is both more powerful and more efficient. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic PDK gearbox is standard, and for £3641 extra you can pair it with four-wheel drive in the 4S model.
What’s the 2014 Porsche Panamera S like to drive?
Although it doesn't sound as sporty as its predecessor, the new V6 is certainly not short of pace. We drove the rear-wheel-drive Panamera S, and pushing the throttle with any conviction sends the revs surging towards the 7000rpm redline. It’s got all the performance you’d expect, and then some.
Power delivery is seamless and predictable throughout the rev range, making it easy to drive the S smoothly, regardless of whether you’re driving hard or just pottering around in town.
The PDK automatic gearbox is at its best in sport mode, snapping through the gear ratios sharply, although you’ll probably want to use the wheel-mounted paddles for that extra element of control.
At normal speeds, though, this transmission is less impressive. It’s sometimes reluctant to change up when you want, and the shifts are quite slow when in normal mode, but always smooth and precise.
Our car came on optional 20-inch alloys and standard suspension, which has three adaptive settings to choose from. In its softest mode the Panamera S feels suitably relaxed over scruffy and undulating roads, but it still thunks quite harshly over sharper-edged bumps and expansion joints.
Even at higher speeds, mid-corner ruts send a substantial shudder through the car; certainly more than you’d expect of a plush saloon. Sticking with the standard 18-inch alloys would no doubt improve this, as would the (£1409) adaptive air suspension, which from our experience gives a smoother ride.
The handling is good for a car of this size. The steering is a touch too light at low speeds, but it’s responsive and predictable enough that you can place the Panamera precisely on the road, and gets heavier in corners, giving the driver a greater level of control. Body roll is well controlled, too, so it feels really planted and secure on the road regardless of how fast you drive.
Refinement is very good, although again those 20-inch alloys kick up noticeable tyre noise at a cruise. Still, the engine is impressively quiet, keeping to a distant, muffled hum unless you accelerate hard.
What’s the 2014 Porsche Panamera S like inside?
The interior of the latest Panamera remains largely unchanged, which is no bad thing. It's still not as practical in the back as more traditional saloon rivals such as the Mercedes CLS63 AMG.
The rear cabin accommodates just two people, albeit in comfortable, individually adjustable seats, and the boot is fine for daily use, with a 445-litre loading bay, but the sloping roof means it's quite shallow.
The Panamera is a very luxurious car, though. Behind the wheel, the wide centre console divides the cabin, and houses most of the buttons and switches, with a standard colour touch-screen dominating the shallow, upright dashboard.
The dials are simple but classy and easy to read, while another colour readout tucked into the binnacle shows full navigation instructions and a variety of other useful information in the driver's eyeline.
All the cabin materials are sumptuous and expensive, making it feel like a high quality product. Although the cabin is a bit button-heavy in areas, most of the controls are easy to navigate.
Standard equipment now includes a multi-function steering wheel, powered tailgate and brighter xenon headlights, as well as essentials such as sat-nav, Bluetooth, a DAB radio, and climate control.
Should I buy one?
The Panamera S is a convincing all rounder; it’s a great cruiser, with a potent and refined new engine, not to mention an outstandingly comfortable and classy cabin. It’s far from flawless, though. Ride comfort should be better for a luxury GT, and while the handling is good, it's not the best in this class.
Despite its range of talents, there are also better options out there. If you must have a petrol sports-saloon, a BMW M5 is substantially cheaper and offers even sharper performance and handling. The Mercedes CLS63 AMG offers a similiarly premium cabin and is a lot quicker in a straight line, too.
If it’s the Panamera itself that you’re sold on, though, then you’ll get much better value for money from the equally impressive, if slightly slower, 296bhp Panamera Diesel.
What Car? says...
Engine size 3.0 V6 twin-turbo petrol
Price from £82,439
Torque 384lb ft
0-62mph 5.1 seconds
Top speed 178mph
Fuel economy 32.5mpg
Panamera V6 4S
Engine size 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol
Price from £86,080
Torque 384lb ft
0-60mph 4.8 seconds
Top speed 177mph
Fuel economy 31.7mpg
Panamera V6 Diesel
Engine size 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel
Price from £65,289
Torque 479lb ft
0-62mph 6.0 seconds
Top speed 160mph
Fuel economy 44.1mpg